A fascinating example of the unique contribution of this project appeared unobtrusively on the pages of the Jerusalem Post In the brief news item, it was reported that the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a man who had been found guilty of killing four women by setting fire to the place they were employed. He had originally received a sentence of life-imprisonment for that murder done out of religious fervor (!). The Supreme Court now ruled the man as mentally incompetent, not responsible for his actions. The man had believed that he was the Messiah, and that the Holy Spirit had ordered him to set the fire.
What the reporter was not aware of is that this same man was a recalcitrant husband who had been refusing to give his wife her Get, for the same reason-that he was the Messiah.
This was one of the files that the IYIM Agunah and Get-Refusal Prevention Project successfully resolved. At the time the husband had been incarcerated for a year, maintaining his refusal to give his wife a Get. After studying the case in depth and after several lengthy meetings with the wife, Dr. Rachel Levmore, director of the project, advised the wife and saw to it that the personal Rabbi of the husband became involved.
A few days after that, and when the threat of the Rabbinical Court levying sanctions upon him in prison became immanent, the husband notified that he wanted to give the Get. The great success of this project is that this was done months before the ruling of the Supreme Court declaring him legally incompetent. A ruling of incompetency prevents the man from giving a Get according to the Halakha, since he has no understanding of his actions. If the man had held out until after the ruling of incompetency, his wife would have remained an aguna for as long as the husband continued to live. The intense work invested in the case brought about her freedom and the opportunity for her and her children to live a normal life.
The Prisoner Project, which is a major innovation and accomplishment of this project, was patterned after the needs of handling this particular case. This was one of the first cases where the husband was incarcerated by the Rabbinical Courts for a period of five years for refusing to give his wife a Get. It was in this case that the husband was the first to have sanctions levied against him within the prison walls. It was in this case that the husband was the first to be sent to solitary confinement. It was in this case that the husband was the first to be transferred out of the “Religious Ward” (where prisoners are treated very well, with prayers thrice daily, continuous Torah studies sometimes held on the lawn in a pastoral setting, food with special kashruth, full laundry services, etc. This man was highly respected for his knowledge of Torah and was regarded as a Rabbinical leader within that closed society [both by prisoners and wardens!!] ).
It was the doing of Dr. Levmore over a period of four years that saw to all these sanctions.
The husband began to break under the weight of all these sanctions having been applied. However, he continued to hold out in his obstinacy, living in his own reality. The final change came about with the appearance of a new Rabbinical Court Judge assigned to this case. This Judge commenced handling the case in a completely different manner. As a result of all the efforts made, coupled with the obvious good-will that the new Judge was exhibiting towards both parties, the husband trusted the Judge enough to give his wife a Get. It was an image that was hard to believe. The now ex-husband became a free man, upon his release from jail. He is eager to begin a new page in life. The freed wife and children are flourishing in work and in school, respectively. The thanks of the ex-wife (and her mother!!) were overwhelming.
This is a story of a case which had come to Dr. Rachel Levmore’s hands as a direct result of the initiation of the Agunah and Get-Refusal Prevention Project. The American father of a young abandoned woman, mother of young children, had turned to the Project. The young woman’s husband had abandoned his family in Israel approximately two years earlier and was homeless and drifting in the United States. After meeting with the wife and execution of in-depth research by Dr. Levmore, a private investigator was retained by the Directorate of the Israeli Rabbinical Courts, with whom Dr. Levmore worked until the husband was located.
At that point, contact was initiated through the mother of the recalcitrant husband. Through many overseas telephone calls, faxes, and emails–negotiations and coaxing took place until the get was administered. This was done by proxy, with the cooperation of an American Rabbinical Court together with the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court. Most importantly, this case was resolved leaving good feelings all around, so that the children of the couple traveled to the US to visit their father and grandmother whom they had not seen for several years, immediately after the Get.
An urgent plea of help was received by Dr. Rachel Levmore, director of the Agunah and Get-Refusal Prevention Project, from the mother of a very young woman whose young husband was losing his mental health. The young women had decided to divorce her husband but did not know how to deal with this very delicate situation, which had all the makings of a real agunah case.
If the husband would indeed become mentally ill to the point of irrationality, she would be locked into a sterile marriage for the rest of her life. The family followed Dr. Levmore’s very explicit instructions while she facilitated the workings within the Court. The young woman received her Get within 2 1/2 weeks.
Four days later the young man was institutionalized. This project saved the young woman’s life.
Dr. Rachel Levmore, director of the IYIM Agunah and Get-Refusal Prevention Project, in addition to advising those who were involved in the case, published a thoughtful, clarifying article in the Times of Israel, which indeed calmed down community disputes and gave the community direction as to how to act. Entitled “A get-refuser in our midst” it was read by many hundreds of people in and outside of the town, with almost 600 “shares”. This engendered a deep discussion between community members which brought to understanding of the proper manner in which to relate to the get-refuser.
Dr. Levmore then suggested to the rabbi of the town that a sermon be delivered in every synagogue of the town that Shabbat, based on the guidelines of the article. Indeed she herself was invited to deliver the Shabbat sermon in one of the main synagogues. She spoke to the congregants about get-refusal and the putting into effect of communal sanctions, in keeping with a Rabbinical Court ruling which levied these sanctions against a get-refuser. At the conclusion, Dr. Levmore made mention of the prenuptial Agreement for Mutual Respect which would prevent such distress from a family and from a community. Her words was very much appreciated by the congregants, as there was much confusion regarding the subject.